“Daddy Issues” is a bubbly, bubble-gummy and seriously sexual West Hollywood tale of two lovely young lesbians in love.
Director Amara Cash and screenwriter Alex Bloom treat the characters like candy — some sweet, some sour (and decidedly kinky) — and keep the production design candy-colored in this moony romance set to a girlishly pop music beat.
Maya (Madison Lawlor) is a 20something pink-haired pixie, an aspiring “modern” cartoonist whose drawings are every bit as fanciful as the way she dresses, dyes and decorates herself. They’re “queer pixies,” just like her. She longs to “study in Florence,” as if there are no places to study cartooning in Greater L.A.
But Mom (Kamala Jones) isn’t financing this “a two yr Lez-Cation,” no matter how much Maya pleads “I don’t belong here” and that she needs to be “where people understand and appreciate me.”
OK, Mom has a point. A model-thin gay girl living on the edge of West Hollywood? Girl, people understand you.
Yes, she’s just being dramatic. Maybe that’s because Maya is still young enough that her sex life is mostly coy flirting/teasing games on Grindr. But she has found her fantasy ideal.
That would be the smouldering, sexy coquette Jasmine (Montana Manning), who designs, sews and sells hipper-than-hip (mostly black) clothing online, sharing a whole lot of her active, popular, partying life online — sprinkled with a smidgen of her LaLaLand philosophy.
“Follow your dreams or they’ll chase you.”
Long before Jasmine “checks in” online and thus reveals her actual location, Maya is “cybersessed” with her. The rave/party she gets into puts the two on a planned collision course.
And damned if these two lithe, very pretty young things don’t hit it off when they do collide.
But Maya’s young and in love. And as wide as her pale blue eyes are around “Jazzy,” she’s not picking up the signs.
Their first sexual encounter is underscored with Vivaldi on the movie’s soundtrack, and the insistent buzz of angry messages on Jasmine’s phone.
“You’re LATE” the messenger named “Daddy” barks onto Jasmine’s screen.
Oh yeah, Jasmine is on the sexuality spectrum, or is as far as “Daddy” (Andrew Pifko) is concerned.
He’s much older, well off and bossy.
“Put on the blue outfit” he orders, when they finally hook up. “Does someone want their allowance?”
In a garage apartment Dr. “Daddy” keeps padlocked until Jasmine visits, we see what appears to be a tweenage girl’s bedroom — pastels and bows and froufrou all around. Dressed in little girl outfits, Jasmine goes gamine-aged sex kitten for her “Daddy.”
And then “Daddy Issues” gets downright weird.
Filmmakers Cash and Bloom pack a lot of characters and plenty of chewy/funny or sexy-swooning scenes into this 80 minute dramedy.
Both women have Daddy issues, as Maya’s left her home years ago and mom’s new husband is always walking in on her. Even Jasmine’s older-man-on-the-side has Daddy Issues. His disapproving father (veteran character actor Monte Markham) seems to have a pretty good handle on his son’s psyche.
Simon (Pifko) is a surgeon, and anything that he doesn’t control sends him into a (sped-up action) manic tailspin of hysterics and drugs.
And the mothers? They’re a trip. Jasmine’s (Jodi Carol Harrison) is a manic drunk, ready to marry the first biker who says “Let’s go to Vegas.”
The script finds fun in an over-the-top frat-bro attempting to pick up Maya (“We’ll do extreme brunch. You extreme brunch?”) and poignancy in Maya’s naive tumble for the more world-wise Jasmine.
Jasmine may not want to get “serious,” but her design business doesn’t take off until her new “muse” inspires a radical re-design in the clothing line — cartoonish and colorful, like the pale-eyed pixie with the pale pink hair.
The leads are dazzling, although Pifko’s arch take on kinky Simon suggests there’s more in the closet that’s going to require unpacking before this guy can feel “normal.”
The Cliff Notes psychology of “Daddy Issues” works against it,and it’s hard to keep the tone as airy as the colorful production design and pop tunes that underscore much of the film insist it is.
But this one is too interesting, funny and aggressively/transgressively sexy — if there even is such a thing these days — to pass by.
MPAA Rating: unrated
Cast:Madison Lawlor, Montana Manning, Andrew Pifko
Credits:Directed by Amara Cash, script by Alex Bloom. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Running time: 1:21